Use data for targeting of resources: Australians’ message

28 February 2019

Australians believe the governments should use the personal data they obtain to better target entitlements, according to the latest Australian National University Poll (ANUPoll).

The survey of more than 2,000 Australian adults about their views on government use and protection of personal data also found nearly 90 per cent of respondents think governments 'definitely should' or 'probably should' use the data they access to 'ensure residents aren't claiming benefits they're not entitled to.'

Similarly, more than 90 per cent of Australians believe data should be used by governments to ensure residents aren't missing out on entitlements and to target resources to those who need it most.

Lead researcher Associate Professor Nicholas Biddle said there was much lower levels of support for governments sharing data with researchers to improve government services.

"In general, respondents to the survey were quite supportive of the Australian Government using data for entitlement and resources allocation, but they were slightly less certain about providing data for researchers," Associate Professor Biddle said.

"We asked participants if the Commonwealth Government should be able to provide data to researchers to research ways to improve outcomes for individuals or communities, and improve the delivery and targeting of government services.

"Only 31-32 per cent said the Government 'definitely should be' able to provide data for this purpose, but overall support for this activity was around 85 per cent."

ANUPoll also found there is a low level of trust in governments' ability to respond to, or prevent, a data breach.

"Less than 40 per cent of Australians believe the Australian Government can be trusted to use data responsibly, with even fewer people believing the Government will able to respond quickly and effectively to a data breach," Associate Professor Biddle said.

"With the data environment in Australia changing rapidly, there is an urgent and continuing need for governments to build up trust across the population and to put policies in place the reassure consumers and users of government services."

"It's unclear from the survey results whether the low level of trust is driven by a lack of knowledge about what government does or does not do with data, as opposed to a lack of support. It is probably a combination of both for different individuals."

The ANUPoll on data governance is available here.